It had been more than five long months since the Dragons Rhondorf last played an official league basketball game in mid April closing out the season in fine fashion ousting the RheinStars Cologne in the rambunctious Dragon Dome, but couldn´t save their season as they stepped down to the Regionalliga. The long waiting was finally over as the club started a new chapter in the Regionalliga West. They didn´t come out of the starting gate well losing their first season game on the road in Wulfen 88-80. In that game, they were unable to consistently defend at an acceptable level and just had massive problems with timely execution. A good note was that they scooped down an impressive 24 offensive rebounds. Their opponent at home the New Elephants Grevenbroich also started the season on a sour note losing to Dorsten 87-81. They had absolutely no remedy how to stop Adam Picket who scorched them for 32 points and couldn´t take care of the ball coughing it up 22 times which was a big cause for leaving the court as the losers. The Dragons Rhondorf were ready for the challenge and both teams were reeling for a win and the Dragons had some short term history on their sides as they had won two of the last three home openers in the last years. Basketball was finally back in the Dragon Dome as the home town team didn´t disappoint as they came back from a tough defeat and had better execution on offense and cleaned up some things on defense and rolled to a 85-72 victory over the New Elephants Grevenbroich. There was that huge positive feeling again in the Dragon Dome and many had big smiles including import player Curtis Hollins who had much to smile about as he demonstrated his vital leadership qualities helping lead the team to the win with a Westbrook like filling of the stat sheet with 26 points, 11 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals and 1 block. It was just another normal day at the office for Hollis. “Key for the win was playing defense for the whole game. Playing good full court defense and playing help side was big for our self confidence. We knew that our offense would come with good defense. It was a normal day at the office for me.I try to do as much as possible for my team. They also did a good job finding me”, stressed Arlington, Texas native Curtis Hollis. After the loss a demoralized Jahad Thomas who was a star at Umass-Lowell(NCAA) had that look on his face that could have told a 1000 depressing stories, but he was professional enough and reflected on the game as best he could. “I felt that we fought well tonight. We were undersized. We need to play better together. When there is a mis match, all the guys have to be on the same page. We played defense well, but just couldn´t put the ball in the basket. I thought that we played well as a unit and stuck together which is important in a long season. I need to play better on offense and defense. When I do that then I can take the team to a new level. Once we clean up a few things all will fall into place”, warned Jahad Thomas.
The first quarter was dramatic and exciting as it was a back and forth grind between both clubs as there were 7 lead changes. The Dragons Rhondorf got on the board first and got Slovenian big man Jure Besedic involved quickly utilizing the mis matches as he scored twice giving the ex Pro B team the 4-2 lead, but the lead was short lived as the New Elephants Grevenbroich fired back as 37 year old Spaniard Enric Garrido Foz who is in his 20th professional season having played 18 years in Spain and for 16 different teams let the ball fly nailing two three´s for the 8-7 advantage. One could tell quickly that the extra defensive preparations during the week were sowing seeds as the Rhondorf defense was more aggressive and making it very tough for the New Elephants Grevenbroich to get into their sets and they were forcing tough shots. It also helped that their defense was keying in a bit extra on their top player Jahad Thomas who wasn´t getting the ball and was blocked twice by Jure Besedic. Garrido Foz didn´t only have the playmaking duty, but also became that go to guy that Thomas couldn´t give early. Thomas became more the facilitator and found veteran ex Sacred Heart(NCAA) standout Ryon Howard on some occasions. The Dragons Rhondorf offense was well oiled and they were playing nice inside out basketball and using their bench. Young German talent Marek Mbaya Kotieno got early minutes and scored while veteran ex Hanau guard Anish Sharda scored inside with his quickness giving Rhondorf the 15-12 advantage. Rhondorf continued to control the game and closed out the first quarter strong as Curtis Hollis scored two baskets and ex Giessen guard Jeffrey Martin connected on a trey for the 22-18 advantage. The Dragons Rhondorf were caught napping with a second left as Howard snuck inside for a basket at the buzzer as Garrido Foz found him with the inbounds pass. The game was tight and exciting as the Dragons Rhondorf led 22-20. “Rhondorf was playing very aggressive and with a lot of energy”, stressed Telekom Baskets Bonn head coach Thomas Paech who was in the stands closely inspecting the game. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 58% from the field and 40% from the field and had 11 rebounds and 3 turnovers while the new Elephants Grevenbroich shot 42% from the field and 40% from outside and had 8 rebounds and 1 turnover.
In the second quarter both teams remained at eye level for the first five minutes, but the Dragons Rhondorf then sped away gaining the more comfortable lead going into the break. Thomas had much misfortune on this day missing many shots, but also had his good moments scoring to begin the second quarter in traffic dead locking the contest at 22-22. Besedic continued to have Thomas´s number blocking him for a third time. The New Elephants Grevenbroich continued to be led by ex Bochum forward Ryon Howard who played 100 Pro B games for them in seven seasons getting a basket and also a trey from ex BG Goettingen guard David Markert.to cut the Rhondorf lead to 28-27. The Dragons Rhondorf then broke free going on a 10-2 run to extend their lead to 38-29. In the run, the ex Pro A club did many things well getting to the free throw line as well as getting a trey from Hollis and two handed dunk as well a nice offensive rebound and put back from Gabriel de Olveira. Rhondorf was the more composed team while the New Elephants Rhondorf played sloppy and had a bad spell of execution effectiveness. Rhondorf also continued to limit the offensive input of Jahad Thomas making him a non factor. The highlight play of the game came at the end where Curtis Hollins made a hard one handed dunk that gave the Dragon Dome an extra push on the decibel level and had the Dragons bench going crazy. “That was a normal dunk for me. I saw the air and took off”, smiled Curtis Hollis. After 20 minutes the Dragons Rhondorf led comfortably 41-32. “Rhondorf continued to play good defense that led to easy baskets. They continued to play with a good tempo and had intense focus on the court”, added Telekom Baskets Bonn head coach Thomas Paech. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 53% from the field and 42% from the three point line and hauled down 22 rebounds and had 7 turnovers while the New Elephants Grevenbroich shot 35% form the field and 33% from the three point line and hauled down 16 rebounds and had 4 turnovers.
Despite some lackluster first minutes in the third quarter by the Dragons Rhondorf where they sat back and watched the Ryon Howard show who helped the team carve into their lead, they stayed composed and captured themselves and broke free again having a double digit advantage after 30 minutes. The New Elephants Grevenbroich came out strong and reborn after the break as Ryon Howard continued to be the go to guy and contributed 8 points to get his team within 4 points trailing 46-42. A big strength of Howard´s game is his great rebounding skills and his timing and anticipation is excellent, but he also has that wonderful jumper and he hit three of them. The New Elephants Grevenbroich would have been even closer if they hadn´t relinquished a three pointer to Anish Sharda. Rhondorf had lost intensity at both ends of the court in this opponents run and had unneeded turnovers to allow them back into the game. But the Dragons Rhondorf remained cool and composed which also had to do with the keen leadership qualities of Hollis who is as composed on the court as a ballerina is when doing her routine. Basketball remains a game of runs and now it was the turn of the Dragons Rhondorf who escaped on a 8-0 run to lead 54-42. In the run they got a huge three from Sharda which sparked the Dragons and they then stepped up their defense getting big defensive plays from Hollins and De OlverairIn this case the three sparked the defense, but often in the game it was the very much improved defense that helped get the offense going. Hollins who can do so much on the court also displayed his suaveness on the rim making an easy tap in using his long arms to his advantage. The New Elephants Grevenbroich never gave up and made a little comeback down the stretch getting two baskets from Jahad Thomas, but Rhondorf kept the intensity up and held on to their double digit lead. They got a vital transition bucket from ex FC Bayern Munich German Killian Binapfel getting the lob pass from Hollis as the Dragons Rhondorf led 59-49 after 30 minutes. “Howard got going at the start, but we then defended better and got stops”, added Curtis Hollins. “Howard got us going, but we then got down on ourselves. It was a game of runs. I felt that we did a good job on defense getting stops, but we just couldn´t score more. I have to be more aggressive”, warned Jahad Thomas. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 46% from the field and 41% from the parking lot and grabbed 32 rebounds and had 12 turnovers while the new Elephants Grevenbroich shot 38% from the field and 28% from the parking lot and grabbed 27 rebounds and had 7 turnovers.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing New Elephants guard Jahad Thomas after finishing with 9 points in the loss
The New Elephants Grevenbroich continued to fight hard in the fourth quarter, but never could get totally over the hump and get closer than four points. Mid way through another Anish Sharda trey broke their backs which they couldn´t recover from giving the Dragons Rhondorf full control which they never gave up until the buzzer sounded. The New Elephants Grevenbroich had that same mentality at the start of the fourth quarter like the third quarter as they came out with a bang. They hit the Dragons Rhondorf with an annoying 10-4 run to suddenly be trailing only 63-59 and suddenly the Dragon Dome was a bit quieter as the guests were threatening. In the run, they got key input from ex Alicante(Leb Gold) guard Enric Garrido Foz who stole the ball at center court from the hands of Sharda and scooted forward for an easy lay in and soon after hit an incredible acrobatic bank shot trey from the corner. Rhondorf had lost some intensity again while the New Elephants Grevenbroich finally showed more consistency on their offensive execution, but also had some luck with that incredible Garrido Foz shot. The New Elephants continued to threaten and stay in the game after a trey from ex Herten guard David Feldmann cutting the Dragons Rhondorf advantage to 67-62. Then another Sharda trey broke the backs of the New Elephants Grevenbroich which led another charge by the Dragons as Martin hit a jumper and Besdic dropped a three for the 77-67 Rhondorf lead with a few minutes to play. Hollis continued to shine on the offensive end having full control of his abilities and had a keen sense knowing when to shoot and when to find his teammates. On the Martin jumper, Hollis could of shot himself, but made the intelligent extra pass getting the better positioned teammate a great shot. “I like to find the open man. I think making that extra pass will rub off on the team. I really try to make that extra pass as much as possible”, warned Curtis Hollis. After the Beseidc three, the gas tank of the New Elephants Grevenbroich was near empty as the Dragons Rhondorf slammed the door shut going on a 8-2 run to lead 85-72. In the run they got baskets from Hollis and Binapfel and another trey from Sharda. David Feldmann closed out the contest with a three pointer, but it was too little too late. “That three by Sharda was big. He does so much for us. That sparked us too lock down on defense and play hard”, stressed Curtis Hollis. “They played hard and smart. They played great basketball and hit shots. We missed too many shots and had turnovers which led them to transition baskets that we couldn´t stop”, added Jahad Thomas. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Curtis Hollis with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Anish Sharda added 15 points while Gabriel De Olveira had 14 points and Killian Binapfel had 10 points. The New Elephants Grevenbroich were led by Enric Garrido Foz with 19 points. Ryon Howard had 18 points. Arbnor Voca and David Feldmann added 10 points apiece. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 515 from the field and 50% from outside and had 38 boards and 17 turnovers while the New Elephants Grevenbroich shot 42% from the field and 38% from outside and had 31 rebounds and 13 turnovers.